Bad Professors are Good for Your Career

By Julia Torres

At some point in their academic careers, most UCLA students have had the passing thought of, “Wow. I am really not cut out for my major.”

Maybe they’re right.

These thoughts should be welcomed, though. Students, do not shy away from this degree of self-awareness. Detach yourself from the belief that a major (and career path) is set in stone. 

In a utopian learning environment, major course requirements would not funnel us into an academic corner. Students would be encouraged to lightheartedly browse a variety of subjects within different majors and concentrations to figure out what they are passionate about. Perhaps interacting with an excellent professor in another field would inspire students to pursue a vocation that was previously unconsidered.

The harsh reality of our school system, though, requires students to commit to a career path that they are not completely sure about in the first place; for example, the motivation to attend medical school as a first year can quickly deteriorate after taking a daunting chemistry class. Although some may have a general sense of what they would like their future to look like, a student can never be certain until they begin handling the intricacies of their desired career. 

Under these circumstances, the most effective catalyst that we as students currently have to begin questioning our chosen major is, well, a horrible professor. 

By “bad professor”, I do not mean the GE lecturer who doesn’t post the slides, goes on tangents to mansplain NFTs, or drones on for longer than the allotted lecture time. That kind of professor is simply boring. There is a difference. Rather, I am referring to the Upper Division professors who get low ratings on Bruinwalk under “Easiness” instead of “Clarity”. 

These professors teach poorly (if at all), yet have the boldness to grade harshly. Students in this course are forced to sculpt out an effective work ethic and teach themselves the academic material on their own time. Practically, this manifests itself in habits such as watching informative Youtube videos at 3am or spending way too much time at Night Powell.

This kind of professor can be frustrating, especially since UCLA students are conditioned to equate their academic success with personal success. Since these professors are unable to do their job effectively, students must do more than regurgitate information on exams: we have no choice other than to intellectually engage with the concepts to make informed analyses. Students must work painfully hard and submerge themselves in the material to succeed in these classes. In an ideal world, every student would be taking upper division courses such as these (granted that they directly relate to an aspiring career path).

Ultimately, the professor’s neglect gives students a taste of what working in this profession would be like. Not having a study guide or Quizlet with the midterm answers, for example, necessitates a level of critical thinking that mimics your desired career choice. Think of it as a trial-run for a selected job. 

Being in a course like this divides the class into two general categories, though. 

Firstly, there is the student who thrives. These students not only push themselves to meet the challenge presented to them, but actually enjoy working through the confusing material and coming to their own conclusions based on the coursework. This scenario is simply confirmation that you are in pursuit of a profession that you will not only be great at, but will also enjoy once you dedicate more time to it in the workforce. Congratulations! Keep at it.

Secondly, there is the student who fails miserably. Whether this failure is reflected in their letter grade or the toll that it takes on their mental health, this individual is unable to keep up with the material and genuinely begins to dislike it. Strangely, this situation is just as helpful as the former. 

If this applies to you…consider changing your major. Seriously.

Dreading an upper division course surrounding your intended field is most likely an indication that you would not have enjoyed this profession. There is value in having a bad professor reveal this about yourself: you have enough time to change your major before being flung into the workforce. There is sufficient wiggle room to complete the requirements for a different major, one that is better suited to your interests and strengths. Trust me, you would rather know this about yourself now than once it becomes your source of income. Chances are, you would not have enjoyed (or perhaps even excelled at) this profession. Take it as a small act of mercy. 

According to the Washington Post, only a reported 27% of graduates have a job related to their undergraduate degree. There is a clear disconnect between what students wish to pursue once they graduate versus the job market they actually get involved with. This begs the question: with a greater number of bad professors, would students be more knowledgeable about whether or not they are equipped for their chosen career paths? 

The student who neglects their GPA at UCLA is unheard of. Although GPA is important and should be considered when planning out an academic path, it should not be the basis of it. After all, how is an outstanding GPA for a specific major useful if you don’t pursue a job related to it in the future? Do not focus on exceptional stats for grad school when you aren’t sure you’ll even get there! 

Do not be afraid to explore the different majors and concentrations that our school has to offer. UCLA reports that about 30% of its student body switches their majors, and yet it’s still somewhat looked down upon. While scary at first, taking a step toward a different career path will only help you in the long run. After all, our time in college will only last for so long before we graduate to the workforce. Though that may sound disheartening, it is the truth!

Save yourself the time and money: explore BruinWalk and enroll yourself in an Upper Division course with a bad professor.

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